Cars and rock ‘n’ roll are a classic combination, and there are few more iconic symbols of that connection than Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche. The drop-top 1964 356C painted from nose to tail in trippy artwork is instantly recognizable to children of the ’60s, and now it’s also a pricey collector’s item.
You apparently can put a price on nostalgia, and in this case that price is $1.76 million. That’s how much the Porsche garnered at a recent RM Sotheby’s auction in New York City. The sale price shattered the pre-auction estimate of $400,000 to $600,000 (already much more than any new Porsche, except for the recently discontinued 918). It also represents a record for a Porsche 356 at a public auction.
This rock-star car has come a long way from its humble origins. The 356 was Porsche’s first production model, and for that reason is now highly prized by collectors. But when Joplin purchased this convertible in 1968, 356s were just ordinary used cars. This particular Porsche wouldn’t stay ordinary for long, though.
Joplin got Dave Richards, a friend and roadie with her band Big Brother and the Holding Company, to customize the car with a psychedelic mural. Called “History of the Universe,” the mural made the car so recognizable that it was somewhat difficult for Joplin to drive it without getting accosted by fans. Nonetheless she did just that, until her death in 1970 at the age of 27.
The Porsche subsequently passed to Joplin’s siblings, who repainted it in a less-conspicuous Dolphin Gray. The mural was later restored by two artists, who referenced old photos. In 1995, the Porsche was loaned to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. It was displayed there for years, until Joplin’s siblings decided to put it up for sale.
Wherever it ends up next, the Porsche probably won’t be seen by millions of tourists like it was in Cleveland. But hopefully its new steward will take good care of this classic Porsche, and its classic artwork.